Wisdom teeth are third molars that we are developing between 17 and 25 age of our life. The age when they are developed is the reason why they are called wisdom teeth. They are the last teeth that are coming out and in the old days it was expected that by early twenties people are grown up and a little bit wise. These days wisdom teeth are causing a lot of problems. Usually there is not enough space for them in a jaw. So, either they are stuck in a jaw bone or they are coming through partly and impacting other teeth usually second molars, but often the whole jaw, too. In most of the cases it is advised to have them removed. So the question is: why do we have wisdom teeth at all?
It is considered that in the past people were loosing teeth more often. In early twenties people would lose at least two or three teeth and that would make some space for wisdom teeth. Also they would be new force in chewing the food – new, healthy, strong teeth. That is one way of looking at this problem. The other explanation is that human jaw was longer in the past – so there was enough space for all the teeth. With evolution the jaw bone has shrink but we still have wisdom teeth. Some scientists are considering loosing of third molars as a next step in human evolution.
It is interesting how in different languages all over the world, the popularly name for third molars is in a way the same. All of the names are usually connected with the age when we are developing them and referring to the wisdom and 20 age of life. In some languages names are slightly different and referring to the fact that wisdom teeth are the last one to appear. For example literal translation form Japanese language would be teeth “unknown to the parents” – suggesting that these teeth will appear after child has separated from the parents and started his/her own family. In Korean language they are called “love teeth” – eruption of third molars is connected with the time when we are falling in love for the first time.
Focusing on etymology we can find a lot of interesting names and associations that people through time added to wisdom teeth. Eruption of these teeth has been considered as important part in one`s life. Suggestion entrance to the world of fully grown ups. Time is changing every thing. Now, wisdom teeth are considered to be burden and it would be easier if we don`t have them at all. In that case we would avoid all the expensive and painful surgery procedures. But, even future is not looking good for wisdom teeth, maybe there is some chance they will retrieve the old glory in slightly different way. Scientist in Japan in August of 2008. find out that it is possible to harvest stem cells from extracted wisdom teeth! So, maybe they are not representing entrance to wisdom age any more, and they are not replacing for the teeth that are lost before the age of 20, but they are opening the door to much more important role of literally saving life!